Chiang Mai 

Arriving from Bangkok, the coach dumped us off near the highway at 5.30am where several overpriced truck taxis were waiting to take us to the city. Still hostel-less, Ellie and Libby had a quick look on hostelwold in the taxi and found one called Bun Chun. It’s a great little hostel run by a few gay guys and their chihuahuas. The owner refers to himself as the Paris Hilton of Chiang Mai. That says it all really!

We felt like we hadn’t done any activities for a while so the 3D museum satisfied our craving. It was my first 3D art experience and we got fully involved, competing with a Chinese family to see who could get the picture first. It was such a laugh, especially when we got photo-bombed by this little boy below.

Our first night was spent with Paris Hilton who invited us to a hip hop night at some expat bar in this city. He wore some extravagant shiny foil hat that completely covered his head! The bar was full of English teachers and it was interesting to hear about what it’s like living in Chiang Mai. Due to the King’s recent passing all bars had to close at 12am so we made our way back to the hostel, obviously stopping off at 7/11 to get some toasties. At this point we didn’t know that 7/11 toasties would become the taste of backpacking in Thailand.

Feeling fresh from our earlyish night, our second day was spent at an orphanage just outside of Chiang Mai where we cooked a meal for the children. It was actually a Couchsurfing event that runs every month. There was a really nice group of people from all around the world and between us we washed, chopped and boiled up what seemed like hundreds of bowls of tom yum soup. I was on squid cutting duty and I had no idea that squids release ink until my hands turned completely black. The soup was delicious.  It was such a lovely afternoon spent with the children and we all had big hugs when we left. I’ve never volunteered at an orphanage before but it’s definitely something I’ll do again. It’s so important to give something back when you can.Chiang Mai is brimming with beautiful temples but my favourite was definitely Wat Phra Doi Suthep in Doi Suthep National Park. Like all temples that can only be accessed by climbing up a ridiculous number of stairs, they never fail to amaze. Everything was just so golden and shiny! The temple is surrounded by a fence with fine Buddha sculptures encrusted all around, and hanging from the fence are little bells with notes people have written. Most notes were written in Thai but as I was walking around one in particular caught my eye, it said “HAPPINESS”. We were also blessed by a monk. He chants Buddhist prayers while splashing you with water and then ties a threaded bracelet on your wrist. At the bottom of the temple stairs were the cutest little Thai girls in traditional ethnic dress. I think they were from a nearby Hmong hill tribe village. Their outfits were so colourful and I love their beaded head-dresses. The girls stand with their mothers selling souvenirs and if you want a photo with them they’ll make it pretty clear that they want a donation! Doi Suthep National Park is huge and there’s plenty to explore. We didn’t make it to the mountain peak but we did do a walking loop to Mon Thaa Than waterfall where we dunked our feet. We joined up with another group who were also looking for the waterfall and somehow managed to go completely off-track. But tramping through the jungle with a bunch of friendly strangers turned out to be really fun! We ended up bumping into them again in Pai where spent quite a lot of time together. It’s such a small world when you’re traveling and you somehow bump into people in the most random of places.

One of the best things we did in Chiang Mai was the Grand Canyon water park. I’ve never been happier to pay 300 baht to look like a complete idiot! The whole thing is like Total Wipeout and basically designed to make you (very ungracefully) slip and slide with all four limbs in the air. It’s a good job you have to wear life jackets or else we would’ve drowned from laughing so much! I nearly died laughing when the lifeguard managed to topple himself into the water as he was tying to pull Christie out.Chiang Mai has the best food night market I’ve been to on my travels. I did soo much eating. Every night Chang Puak Gate comes alive with what seems like hundreds of pop up food stalls selling Thai food, barbecues, Chinese, pancakes, burgers, smoothies and much more. The best one, where we went everyday without fail, was the 5 baht sushi stall. The rolls are freshly made in front of you and taste so good. The little bit of weight I lost in India definitely came back after I ate my way around this market.

There’s a very relaxed vibe in Chiang Mai. There’s plenty going on but there’s a real slow pace to the city. I also love how the mountains are only a short drive away. The old city was once a large walled square surrounded by a moat and I love how the new city has expanded and grown around this bit of history. It’s definitely the kind of city you could accidentally get stuck in.

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